What to Do in Jakarta For First-Time Visitors

Sunday, September 2, 2018

It’s not surprising why a lot of travelers are searching for information on what to do in Jakarta. Indonesiainfo-icon’s capital city is often overlooked in favor of the more popular tourist destinations, such as Bali, Lombok, and Yogyakarta.

While Jakarta may not be one of Indonesia’s top tourist destinations, there are actually plenty of great places in this bustling city that are waiting for you to explore. With numerous shopping destinations, flashy nightlife scene, a wide variety of street foods, and an intriguing blend of culture and history, Jakarta is truly a must-see destination.

So read on to find out more interesting Jakarta facts, as well as tips on where to go, what to eat, and what to do in Jakarta.

Jakarta Facts

Jakarta Old Town is full of Dutch architectural influences.

Indonesia’s capital city is located on the northwest coast of the island of Java. Jakarta is home to more that 10 million people and that makes it the largest city in Indonesia, and the busiest as well. 

Jakarta’s name came from the word, “Jayakarta”, which is an old Javanese word that means complete victory. The city used to be part of the Dutch East Indiainfo-icon Company and has only become independent in 1945. 

It was a Dutch colony after all, so it’s not surprising to find traces of Dutch influences in the city, such as the Dutch cannons at Jakarta Old Town and in some Jakarta architecture.

Interesting Facts About Jakarta

Jakarta traffic is mostly flooded with motorbikes, and there are few interesting strategies to reduce the traffic congestion.

Here are some interesting facts about Jakarta before venturing on what to do in Jakarta.

As one of the fastest growing cities in Southeast Asiainfo-icon, Jakarta is sometimes called “The Big Durian” of Indonesia, the equivalent of New York, which is the United States’ Big Apple.

To address the city’s traffic congestion, the government requires at least three people in a car during rush hour. Otherwise, drivers will be fined. Some unemployed locals are taking advantage of these by offering their presence to some wealthy car owners by simply sitting in the car with them during peak hours to avoid the hefty fine.

Read more: Why Should You Visit Indonesia

Jakarta is a flood-prone city. In fact, it is said to be sinking at 10 cm each year, and experts have projected the entire city to be flooded by the year 2030.

Jakarta hosts “car-free” days every Sunday from 6 to 9 in the morning. During this time, pedestrians would occupy the streets to perform exercises and other sports.

What To Do In Jakarta

Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta happens to be the biggest mosque in all of South East Asia.

After reading some facts about Jakarta, you’re probably wondering what there is to do in the city. So here’s what to do in Jakarta.

Visit a miniature park - if you want to experience the entire country of Indonesia in one day, visit a park called the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, which basically translates to “beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park”. It showcases the country’s local culture, including each of the provinces, as well as the various aspects of the country. There’s also a mini Komodo Island where visitors have the chance to pet a Komodo dragon.

Explore the Kota area - Jakarta’s old town is known as Kota, and this is where you’ll find some of Jakarta’s most interesting sights. This massive square is lined with food carts selling cheap and delicious street foods. There are also bright and colorful bikes that come with matching hats that visitors can rent to cycle around the square. It’s a great place to roam around and observe the local’s way of life. You’ll also notice the canal system and some colonial Dutch houses that are a reminder of the Dutch occupation.

Read more: Bali and Other Interesting Places in Indonesia

Learn about Indonesia’s history - the best place to learn about Indonesia’s history is at the Jakarta history museum. The museum is also in the Kota area at the Taman Fatahillah Square. It showcases the history and development of Jakarta, from the early days until the present.

Learn about planets and stars - after learning a bit of Jakarta’s history, head to the Jakarta Planetarium and Observatory to learn about planets and stars. Opened in 1969, this planetarium also features exhibits and shows happening every few months.

Check out the mosque and the church - the Istiqlal Mosque and the St Mary of the Assumption Cathedral are two of the most popular religious sites in Jakarta and what makes them interesting is that they are situated right next to each other. The mosque is the largest in Southeast Asia having a capacity of more than 120,000, while the cathedral which is right next to it, is also Indonesia’s biggest Catholic church.

Aside from the things above, there are several other things you can do in Jakarta. Wish to walk away from the busy city life? You can head to the Mangrove forest in Jakarta and enjoy the beauty of nature. 

Another exciting place to visit if you love nature is Setu Babakan, a beautiful lake in the south of Jakarta, just an hour drive away from the city center.

What To Eat in Jakarta

Ketoprak is a traditional Indonesian dish that you can find virtually anywhere in Jakarta.

You can never leave Jakarta without eating their food. Due to its strategic trading geography, Indonesian cuisine is influenced by various cultures. 

Most of the dishes are of Hainanese origin, thanks to the influx of Chinese immigrants in the past. Although Jakarta is home to a number of fine restaurants, it’s highly recommended that you explore the street food scene of the city. 

Some of the most popular street food staples are baozi and kerak telor. Here’s what to eat in Jakarta street foods.

Ketoprak - it’s common to find ketoprak in various restaurants in Indonesia. This Jakarta traditional food is made from fried tofu chunks, vermicelli rice, bean sprout, sliced cabbage, and topped with a boiled egg.

Gorengan - this is a deep-fried snack that’s being peddled in various streets of Jakarta. You can choose from tofu, cassava, and fermented soybean. They are deep-fried and eaten with a hot chili sauce.

Kerak Telor – this is another Jakarta traditional food that’s popular in the region. It’s like an omelet, that’s made from a combination of glutinous rice and egg, cooked in a hot charcoal. The omelet is then served with a filling of crunchy shallots, dried shrimp, and shredded coconut.

Martabak - this is more like a dessert and is famous all over the country. The martabak is a soft pancake stuffed with peanuts, condensed milk, chocolate, cheese, and Nutella.

Baozi - this street food staple is of Chinese influence. It’s a bread-like dumpling with different fillings of meat or vegetables and is usually eaten at breakfast, although you can find it being sold in various stalls in Jakarta at any time of the day.

Otak-otak — this is basically a grilled fish cake made from Wahoo fish and added with coconut milk and some spices, including ginger and lemongrass. It’s wrapped in banana leaves and grilled to perfection.

Rujak Juhi - this street food is a mixed salad topped with dried squid. It is another Indonesian dish with Chinese influence. The salad consists of yellow noodles, tofu, lettuce, cucumber, and steamed potato. It’s then topped with peanut sauce, rice crackers, and the squid.

As you see, there are lots of things to see and discover in Jakarta, which a lot of travelers often miss out just because they don't know what to do in Jakarta. So if you’re planning a trip to Indonesia and wondering what to do in Jakarta, this guide should help you in planning your itinerary.

Carolyn Boston freelance content writer for aSabbatical.com
Travelling the world on a budget for several years without having a hefty savings account.